World Malaria Day (April 25) presents the perfect opportunity to reflect on the progress that has been made toward reducing the global burden of malaria and the work that still needs to be done. According to Roll Back Malaria, global malaria deaths fell by over 20% between 2000 and 2009 and one-third of malaria endemic countries have cut malaria cases by 50% or more in the last decade. However, malaria still claims the lives of more young children than any other disease, killing a child every 45 seconds. Each of these deaths is preventable, since we have the evidence-based tools to treat and prevent malaria. The primary challenge now is delivering those tools to the people who need them. To help donors have the greatest impact in reducing the deaths and suffering caused by malaria, our team created the Lifting the Burden of Malaria investment guide. In it, we discuss three entry points and strategies through which philanthropists can make a difference:
1. Treat and prevent now—Life-saving interventions such as insecticide-treated bednets (LLITNs) and artemisinin combination medications (ACTs) are under-utilized due to insufficient funding, shortages of health workers, limited access to health services, and lack of knowledge about proper use. Philanthropic dollars can reduce barriers to delivery of cost-effective treatment and prevention tools.
2. Build systems for the long term—For the impact of malaria tools to be sustainable, certain key components of health systems must be in place. Donors can invest in the development of human and health system capacities (e.g., health workforce, leadership and management, and data collection).
3. Innovate for the future—There are opportunities to support innovation in practice and research. Donors can invest in the development of new technologies (e.g., vaccines) or delivery models (e.g., private sector drug vendors) in pilot projects that can later be scaled up. Here are our top strategies and opportunities for philanthropists to help to reduce the global burden of malaria.
Treat and Prevent Now
- Community Case Management of Malaria: Extend the existing health system capacity through supervised community health workers who can diagnose and treat malaria at the community level.
- Care Groups: Educate, mobilize, and change behavior in communities through volunteer networks—Education can empower community members to take appropriate actions to prevent malaria (sleeping under bednets and seeking timely treatment.)
- Deliver insecticide treated bednets to all households using integrated campaigns—Bednet distribution can be enhanced by integrating distribution with mass vaccination and other health campaigns.
- Increase community access to artemisinin combination medications (ACTs) through national-scale programs, using malaria control associates to overcome delivery bottlenecks.
Build Systems for the Long Term
- Strengthen health system capacity through effective partnerships—Philanthropists can work with programs that strengthen the ability of a country’s Ministry of Health to plan, execute, and monitor its national malaria control strategy.
- Leverage existing financing resources for system-wide change—Donations toward technical assistance can help countries apply for and use international malaria funding.
- Create an information network to track outcomes, monitor drug resistance, and predict epidemics—An information network about antimalarial resistance can guide drug treatment and prevention policies to prevent further resistance.
- Prepare future health leaders from malaria-affected countries—Initiatives provide local training and job opportunities as well as ongoing professional development to retain health workers in malaria-affected countries.
Innovate for the Future
- Support innovation for new tools—Funding can support research and development of new antimalarial drugs, vaccines, diagnostic tests, and mosquito control.
- Innovate by harnessing the potential of the private sector—Philanthropists can support private sector partnerships in host countries, local companies producing malaria control commodities, or franchise medicine shops.
See our full guide, Lifting the Burden of Malaria: An Investment Guide for Impact-Driven Philanthropy, for specific examples of nonprofits and our cost and impact analysis.